While researchers believe there is a significant degree of automation powering Trump’s megaphone, they do not contend that he or his supporters routinely break Twitter’s rules. The company allows enthusiastic followers to use software to automatically retweet people, and though the company bans “bulk retweeting,” it does not disclose at what point frequent retweeting crosses over into prohibited behavior. Twitter suspended 100 out of 200 sample accounts brought to its attention by The Washington Post for spammy activity or other violations.
Tech companies have spent the past four years preparing to fight foreign disinformation campaigns, but now they are confronted with a situation where their political caution and deference to free speech, coupled with the power of algorithms and loosely enforced rules, have turned their platforms into hubs of domestic misinformation — with the misleading comments often led by the president himself.
Twitter, for example, did not have a policy banning any form of misinformation until 2020, and until just months ago, both Twitter and Facebook exempted politicians — including Trump — from their rules on the grounds that their comments were too newsworthy to censor.